In a historic move for criminal justice reform, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Clean Slate Act into law resulting in the sealing of more than two million criminal records. This monumental legislation offers a second chance to individuals who have completed their sentences and maintained a clean record.
The Clean Slate Act specifies that felony records will be sealed eight years after conviction or release from prison, and misdemeanors will be sealed after three years, contingent upon a clean record during that time. The exclusion of the most serious criminal convictions, such as murder, sex crimes, and certain class A felonies related to drug possession, aims to balance restorative justice with public safety.
Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado expressed his support, emphasizing the significance of the Clean Slate Act in promoting restorative justice and affording individuals the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Delgado stated, “This will allow so many New Yorkers to build a new future for themselves, their families, and their community.”
The legislation, set to take effect a year from now, positions New York as one of the dozen states with similar laws. Governor Hochul highlighted the economic benefits, noting that the Clean Slate Act would help address the state’s worker shortage, with over 450,000 job openings. Hochul emphasized the correlation between stable employment and crime reduction, stating, “The best crime-fighting tool is a good-paying job.”
However, not all responses to the Clean Slate Act have been positive. Former Congressman and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin criticized the legislation, asserting that it represents a surrender to criminal elements and compromises law enforcement support. Zeldin also highlighted concerns about the state’s bail policies, arguing that New York is the only state without judges’ discretion in weighing dangerousness when setting bail.
As the Clean Slate Act paves the way for significant criminal record expungement, it sparks a broader conversation about the balance between restorative justice, public safety, and the economic opportunities afforded to individuals seeking a fresh start in New York.
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